Rays 30 in 30

Today, the Rays lost their fifth straight series in Interleague play and have now fallen into third place in the AL East with a 12-19 skid in their past 31 games and today’s loss was marked with a scuffle in the dugout between Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton after Upton was picked off first base and casually went after a hit to the gap that became a triple. Here are 30 reasons why the Rays have gone 12-19 in their last 31 games and have seen that 1st place lead evaporate like an ice cube on a sidewalk in St. Petersburg in May and June:

  1. Attendance: Too many people are showing up! In 2008 and 2009, the Rays were 64-26 when crowds of at least 20,000 showed up for home games. In 2010, the club is just 9-13 in those contests. The message is clear – stay home! The Rays play better when fans do not care enough to show up and this helps the club’s argument in begging for a new stadium.
  2. Bartlett: It is tough to forget how good he was last season, tough enough that most seem to forget just how bad he was in 2006-2008 and how bad he has been this season at the plate. He should play against all lefties and finesse righties, and that’s where his playing time should end. He never should have been in there against Edwin Jackson. I am not saying Jackson would not have thrown a no-hitter if Brignac got the start, but Bartlett’s splits against righties this season and dating back are not strong and putting him in there against tough righties is setting him up for failure.
  3. Blalock: Pat Burrell was bad; Blalock has been equally as bad. A DH that has just one cheap Crawford box homer on the season and a handful of doubles. He is simply not cutting it and he is who he has always been – a free swinging hitter with declining skills. It baffles me why he is still on this roster because he cannot play defense, cannot hit against left-handed pitching, and is not hitting righties with any authority. Cut him, now.
  4. Brignac: He has just a .264 wOBA this month after a red-hot May and solid April. If he wants all of the at bats against righties, his production has to come up. Defensively, no complaints because he is, without a doubt, the best defensive shortstop on this team.
  5. Burrell: Only because it is fun to blame him. Seriously, he leaves here and finds his bat in San Francisco where he continues to crush it and shackle the Rays payroll with $7m that they could sorely use to trade for another bat, or pitcher, right now. If the club only adds spare parts again this season close to the deadline, it’s all Burrell’s fault.
  6. Cormier: Why is Lance Cormier on the team? He is only used in low leverage situations and he is clearly the worst bullpen pitcher on the staff. The club does not need to carry seven bullpen pitchers as the other six are not that heavily taxed and Andy Sonnanstine has clearly shown everyone he is the man to come clean up messes left early in games by starting pitchers. 11 man pitching staff, please.
  7. Davis: He has not won a game in his last five starts; some were his fault and others were due to a complete lack of run support as was the case today against Arizona. He has a 7.32 ERA over the past month and a 4.71 FIP which is still weak. Jonah Keri in a post at DRaysBay advocated for Davis to be traded along with a prospect for Cliff Lee and uber-Mariners blogger David Cameron gave his seal of approval. Put me in that illustrious group for approval too.
  8. Defense: Upton’s casual jog in the field aside today, the defense has had its issues. Jaso’s had his issues behind the dish, Bartlett has had his issues out at short which cost the club at least one game in the Atlanta series. It was mentioned earlier but the team defense suffers when Brignac is on the bench and Bartlett is in the game. Additionally, an outfield of Crawford, Upton, and Joyce could be fun to watch once all three are back in the fold and healthy.
  9. Friedman: You will hear nary a critical mention of Friedman from me but someone has to be responsible for the club carrying three catchers for way too long and for Hank Blalock still being on the active roster so the blame falls on the big man. He sat idly by the last two trade deadlines but hopefully he pulls the trigger on something here in the next month to improve the club and it would be better if he did not wait until the end of July to make that move.
  10. Garza: Three wins are nice, but a 7.00 ERA is not. Of course, most of that game from that epic fail in Miami earlier this month, but he has not been sharp during this losing stretch. His FIP in this stretch is worse than Davis’ and his home run rate is a staggering 1.7. His last start out was a nice rebound but that was the weak-hitting Padres; he needs to be more consistent.
  11. Homers: Homers are not everything, but they are certainly nice to have. Unfortunately, the Rays have hit just 24 homers in their past 30 days. To make matters worse, the pitching staff has surrendered 34 homers.
  12. Intentional Walks: The club has five on the season but none of them were to Adrian Gonzalez in the Padres series and he made them pay. With the talent surrounding him, Gonzalez should have been given the four-finger pass as often as possible but the same guy who once ordered an intentional walk with the bases loaded did not act and Gonzalez’s solo homer in the second game of that series was a difference maker that did not need to happen.
  13. Imitation: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Joe Maddon was the first manager to bring the shift back into vogue against David Ortiz and J.D. Drew back in 2008 and now teams regularly employ it against Carlos Pena which has drastically affected his performance. The Rays were also at the forefront of run prevention with player defense and the Red Sox admittedly changed their roster configuration to match it and despite all of their injuries this season, are still ahead of the Rays in the standings because of it.
  14. Jaso:  His hot start with nice but he has a .316 wOBA this month which is fueled mostly by walks but it is his problems behind the plate that have been troublesome. He is not the best guy moving laterally and his problems were highlighted in a recent start by David Price, three runs scored that were directly affected by poor defensive play by Jaso.
  15. K%: The Rays are dead last in the American League in team strikeout rate in June with a 23% strikeout rate. It is tough to advance a runner when you can’t even make contact.
  16. Kapler: The ladies love to look at him, but that’s about his only redeeming quality of late. He is not handling lefties as well as he has in the past and he is essentially a defensive replacement at this rate. I love the guy and think he has a great future as a manager or on-air personality but I think the Rays need to help push him in that direction sooner rather than later.
  17. Karma: It’s a bitch and everyone that was taunting Red Sox fans last month when the club was up on them so much can take a moment to remove their foot from their mouth.
  18. Longoria: Nobody is spared from my wrath tonight. Longoria had a .419 wOBA in April and May but is just at .331 this month and a .247/.354/.376 slash line is tough to swallow from the heart and soul of the club. His defense has still been rather sick, especially this week but his slumping bat is the last one the Rays can afford to go in the tank right now.
  19. Maddon: I still think he is the best manager in baseball, but each time I see Bartlett in there over Brignac with a tough righty on the mound or Blalock is not pinch-hit for in a clutch situation, I die a little inside. I have zero beef with the various batting order changes he has run through this season as he fights to find something to spark this lineup of late but he needs to pay closer attention to splits and help set up these batters for success and maximize their strengths while minimizing their weaknesses.
  20. Navarro:  He is gone now, but that decision took too long to happen. Yes, he looked better behind the plate of late but he was a near zero at the plate and the club having to carry three catchers hurt the overall options at the end of a game.
  21. Pena: The homer binge in early June helped hide just how awful Pena has been of late. Take away that line and Pena is hitting below .150 with an OPS around .500. He desperately needs to sit against tough lefties because unless Pena homers these days, it’s a walk, strikeout, or a ball in play right into the teeth of the defensive shift. Since he cannot hit the ball the other way on the ground, teams have even started leaving the third baseman in to take away the bunt.
  22. PTBNL: It is a great podcast done by DRaysBay and I was on Episode 8 but that show has to die. The Rays are now 0-9 on the Friday nights before that show is recorded. Once or twice is just bad timing but nine times in a row?? That show is a black cat.
  23. RISP: In the team’s first 44 games, the club hit an amazing .297 with runners in scoring position (124 for 418). Over the last 31 games, it has been much, much worse. How much worse? Try 61 for their last 290 with runners in scoring position which equates to a .210 batting average. They are leaving an average of 7.6 baserunners a game on base during this slump.
  24. Shields: He had three terrible starts in late May and early June followed by two better starts of late but none of them resulted in a win. The only win Shields has came in relief of that crazy game in Miami. Shields has been quite generous with the home run ball giving up 2.1 per nine innings over the past 30 days including the unnecessary one to Adrian Gonzalez in his last start. He too had a horrific meltdown start against the Marlins in a home start that has caused him to have the highest FIP on the starting staff in the past 30 days.
  25. Shoppach: Even when he came back from the disabled list, he was not playing that regularly and that uncertainty necessitated the third catcher staying around longer than most expected. The strikeouts were expected, but not at a 40% rate and he has just two extra base hits in 36 plate appearances.
  26. SLG%: The homer problem was mentioned above, but the doubles and triples are lacking as well. The club’s .397 slugging percentage is the lower half of the American League and the lower third of the major leagues over the past 30 days.  The team is forced to play a lot of station to station baseball in the lower part of the lineup when Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton are not involved as those two have 21 of the club’s 36 steals of late.
  27. SOS: The strength of schedule for the Rays has been very tough of late – well over .500 while the Red Sox and Yankees are playing a collection of teams under .500 but that’s how playoff teams are made. The schedule gods are there in September when the Rays play Baltimore, Seattle, and Kansas City for 13 games but at the rate the club is going, that won’t matter. They’re falling into an eerily similar rut of last summer when the club eventually ran out of time to make a dent into the standings deficit in late August. Boston is hurting (again) now with Ellsbury, Pedroia, and possibly Victor Martinez all on the disabled list as the Rays fly up to Boston for a two game series that starts Tuesday. Shields gets the ball in the first game but he and Fenway have a love/hate relationship where he hates to pitch there and loves to leave the game as soon as possible.
  28. Umpires: In this losing stretch, Angel Hernandez called Sean Rodriguez out when he actually did touch first base and refused to grant Pena time in a crucial 9th inning at bat. In another game against the White Sox, Evan Longoria was tagged out by Paul Konerko with his glove while the ball was in Konerko’s other hand. In Atlanta, Hank Blalock was called out on a play at home plate that was clearly called incorrectly and the Rays have had two balks called on them just this week when neither were balks. The umpiring has sucked and I’m struggling to find examples of plays working in the Rays’ favor.
  29. Unlucky: Today, the Rays hit everything against Aaron Heilman hard, but right at someone. In Wednesday’s game against Heath Bell, same thing and the same result. The batters’ BABIP is at an even .300 while both Texas and Boston are over .330 and the pitching staff finds their BABIP and LOB in the lower half in baseball. Not to mention, all of the bad umpiring calls and the unfortunate draw in schedule all adds up to one big pot of unlucky times for the Rays.
  30. Upton: The best for last. Today’s “effort” was crap – no way to polish that turd. He took a bad angle to that ball and made it worse with his Hanley Ramirez like effort toward it. With Burrell gone, he’s already public enemy #1 for fans when times are bad despite having the second best wOBA of the regulars over the past 30 days. Better than Carlos Pena, better than Evan Longoria, and better than Ben Zobrist. That said, his inconsistency can be maddening. He went on a hot stretch that earned him some time hitting lead-off and then goes into the tank again. He has his toughest times against good right-handed pitcher that can throw 93 or harder. Yes, Josh Johnson and Mat Latos can make a lot of people look foolish, but I’ve also seen types such as Bud Norris make Upton look like a little leaguer trying to catch up to a good fastball. Upton’s defense is still the best on the team for center field, but that defense also needs to take a seat against some tougher right-handed pitching because he has shown himself to be completely overmatched by good velocity.

The Rays can make a lot of this bad go away by going up to Boston and taking advantage of an undermanned Red Sox team while throwing the top of the rotation at that club. They also travel to Minnesota this week to take on a slumping Twins club and I will be at the first game of that series on Thursday night in person so hopefully see another Jeff Niemann victory. I will be honest, this play of late is very tough to watch and if I were not being paid to write about the Rays and write about fantasy baseball, I would shut my television off for a week to give my stress level a break because it is in the danger zone these days.

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About Jason Collette

Writer/Analyst
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5 Responses to Rays 30 in 30

  1. Pingback: Baseball by Paul 6/28/10 Show Notes « Baseball By Paul

  2. Steve Buffum says:

    I don’t know why YOU didn’t expect a 40% strikeout rate: Cleveland fans sure did.

    Kelly runs hot and cold: he’ll have a week with three dingers and you’ll think he’s turned the corner. You will be wrong.

  3. Steve,

    40% is his highest since 2006. Sure, he’s never been the best contact hitter but the rate so far is his worst over the past four seasons. If he can hit another 12-15 homers from here on out and hit .240, I’m fine with it.

  4. Dan Nance says:

    Yes, they look awful and a Sox sweep now becomes essential in order to right the ship and at least put some fear back into the Big 2. However,Crawford’s return is a must

  5. Pingback: One Month Until Trade Deadline. What Happens Then? | RaysCentral.com

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